The CSX Rail Yard: In A Word … Impressive.

CHICAGO–I always knew that Chicago was a big time rail center, but our tour of one of the CSX rail yards yesterday was an eye-opener. I frankly had no idea as to the size and scope of rail operations in this city.

There are, in fact, 70 rail yards in Chicago! Four large U.S. railroads and two Canadian railroads all converge here. Then, of course, there’s Amtrak and the commuter lines.

On a normal day, 500 freight trains and 700 passenger trains depart or arrive or pass through here. Wow!

The CSX facility we visited is an intermodal yard. Trains bring containers into the yard where huge rolling cranes lift the “boxes” off flatcars at the rate of one every two minutes and deposit them onto trucks to be driven to their destinations. There’s an equal amount of business in the reverse, too … trucks bringing containers into the CSX yard where they are put onto flat cars and taken away by rail to destinations all over the country. It is a very impressive operation.

We also had a quick look at one of the new GenSet locomotives that CSX is buying and putting into operation. These are diesel electric machines that uses one-half the fuel of earlier models and boast an 80 percent reduction in particulate matter. They’re not as powerful as the big brutes that haul 120-car freight trains around the country, but are used as switch engines throughout these rail yards and for hauling shorter trains to local destinations. Nevertheless, it’s a real break-through and a very good sign of things to come.

I’ll post photos of my visit to the yard at a later date.

It’s back on Amtrak tomorrow morning. First stop will be Galesburg, Illinois, and a visit with family, than on to Los Angeles on the Southwest Chief. I’ll connect in LA with the Coast Starlight for the run up to Portland and the NARP (National Association of Railroad Passengers) board meetings.

To be continued …